The Foreign Service Journal - September 2016
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Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP.


or (202) 482-9088



The Golden Rule: Paradox or Words to Live By?

Which is the real Golden

Rule—“Do unto others as

you would have them do unto

you” or “Whoever has the

gold makes the rules”?

In the case of the Com-

mercial Service–Global Mar-

kets and our parent agency,

the International Trade

Administration, it would

seem the latter is much

closer to the truth.

As you may know, AFSA

wrote to FCS manage-

ment on May 20, objecting

to wasteful spending and

egregious cuts to mandatory

officer training.

Of particular concern was

questionable headquarters

travel; who travels where,

why, and who they get to

bring with them (for example,

does an under or assistant

secretary really need three

or four assistants when

traveling—without firms—

overseas?). This wasteful

spending continued even as

management was cutting

post payroll, as well as train-

ing and local travel budgets.

A key concern for AFSA

was to ensure the Commercial

Service’s ability to effectively

train its existing, on-board

FSOs. Thankfully, funds for

officer language training were

restored, thus avoiding a

situation in which CS officers

cannot compete against their

peers and our effectiveness

overseas is limited.

Language training, in

particular, is essential to

help FSOs build rapport with

contacts in the host country,

engage with the culture and

connect with host govern-

ment officials, all of which are

crucial to our mission.

What else did AFSA’s

protestations produce? A lot

of worried faces, but no end

to questionable and duplica-

tive headquarters travel. Is it

any wonder that officers are

beginning to question whether

in the newly consolidated ITA,

“the meeting


the metric”?

One thing we have learned

is that while the budget for

the CS–GM has gone up 25

percent overall in the past

10 years ($261 million to

roughly $325 million today),

ITA Centralized Services

charges—the cost for CS–

GM to be a part of ITA and

the Commerce Department

—have gone up 167 percent

(from $18.9 million in 2006

to $50 million today).

Again, is it any wonder

that we are seeing such an

increased concentration of

spending—and travel—here

at the Commerce Depart-

ment while the field suffers

and declines?

So, when management or

leadership implores the field

to tighten their belt, do more

with less or dare to be differ-

ent, remember the Golden

Rule. If there is little or no

desire to reduce—or hold

the line on—headquarters

spending or travel, why not

cut the field?


A key concern for AFSA was to ensure the

Commercial Service’s ability to effectively

train its existing, on-board FSOs.






Recent news about large rate increases for Federal Long Term Care Insurance

Program has our members, and employees and retirees across the U.S. government,

very concerned.

AFSA has sent a letter to the relevant House and Senate Committees, urging

them to hold hearings on this issue and is also working with other unions that repre-

sent federal workers to coordinate advocacy at the agency and congressional levels.

Meanwhile, FLTCIP enrollees should receive a 2016 Enrollee Decision Period

packet of personalized options: (1) maintaining current coverage with premium

increase (default if no action taken); (2) reducing coverage to maintain current pre-

mium; and, (3) various mixes of the first two. A fourth option (offered to some) caps

benefits at the policy’s value while stopping premiums.

The deadline to decide is Sept. 30. Enrollees should contact LTC Partners (www., or call 1-800-582-3337) to explore options. Members should note that

these increases parallel what has been happening in private markets.

The industry is experiencing real turbulence; many companies have stopped LTC

coverage, and John Hancock is the only carrier still bidding on the FLTCIP business.

That business will remain fragile until insurers get the actuarial realities right and

interest rates increase.

See the August AFSA Newsletter


for more

information, and look for Retiree VP Tom Boyatt’s special report in the October




—Janet Hedrick, Member Services Director